740 F.2d 1513 (11th Cir. 1984), 83-7077, Newman v. Graddick

Docket Nº:83-7077, 83-7422, 83-7617, 83-7680 and 84-7000.
Citation:740 F.2d 1513
Party Name:N.H. NEWMAN, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, United States of America, et al., Amicus Curiae, v. Charles A. GRADDICK, Attorney General for the State of Alabama, and Freddie V. Smith, Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Corrections, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:September 10, 1984
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit

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740 F.2d 1513 (11th Cir. 1984)

N.H. NEWMAN, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,

United States of America, et al., Amicus Curiae,


Charles A. GRADDICK, Attorney General for the State of

Alabama, and Freddie V. Smith, Commissioner of the

Alabama Department of Corrections, et

al., Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 83-7077, 83-7422, 83-7617, 83-7680 and 84-7000.

United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit

September 10, 1984

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Frank M. Wilson, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Montgomery, Ala., for Smith, Cook, Spears and Davis, et al.

Albert S. Agricola, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Montgomery, Ala., for Graddick.

Thomas R. McAlpine, Asst. Atty. Gen., Alabama Dept. of Corrections, Montgomery, Ala., for Smith, Cook, Spears and Davis, et al.

Terry R. Smyly, Montgomery, Ala., for defendants-appellants in No. 83-7617.

John L. Carroll, Mandell & Boyd, Southern Poverty Law Center, Montgomery, Ala., for

Alvin J. Bronstein, Nat. Prison Project of ACLU, Miriam R. Eisenstein, Civ. Rights Div., Washington, D.C., for amicus curiae.

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Alabama.

Before RONEY, FAY and CLARK, Circuit Judges.

RONEY, Circuit Judge:

These actions began in 1971 as separate lawsuits brought by inmates under 42 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1983 and 28 U.S.C.A. Sec. 1343(3) to redress a host of constitutional violations in the Alabama prison system. After extensive hearings, the district court ordered sweeping relief over ten years ago. In the margin we list the reported cases reflecting the course of litigation during the past decade, 1 and for easy identification of dates, a chronological listing of various events in this litigation. 2

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These five appeals, Nos. 83-7077, 83-7422, 83-7617, 83-7680, and 84-7000, are from the district court's: consent decree of January 18, 1983, contempt order of November 4, 1983, order of December 7, 1983, and contempt order of December 27, 1983.

The ongoing actions of some thirteen years demonstrate the immense complexity involved in the bringing of a state's penal system into compliance with constitutional requirements to the satisfaction of all parties involved, while at the same time working within the political framework and legislative constraints of that state. The issues on appeal are delineated fully in the opinions on each appeal that follow. Generally these appeals launch attacks on the validity of the district court's consent decree, the holdings of Attorney General Graddick and Commissioner Smith in contempt and the district court's determination to not consider motions to modify prior consent agreements until there is total compliance with those decrees.

Appeal No. 83-7077: we affirm the validity of the consent decree holding that state officials had the authority to bind incoming officials and that the consent agreement could be signed over Attorney General Graddick's objection, where his interest as Attorney General was not affected by the agreement. Graddick loses his challenge to the implementation committee established by this consent decree because he has experienced no adverse effect from it.

Appeal No. 83-7422: the district court's award of attorney fees to plaintiffs is proper since the consent decree was upheld.

Appeal No. 83-7617: we reverse the district court's holding of Attorney General Graddick in contempt on November 4, 1983.

Appeal No. 83-7680: we reverse the district court's holdings in the November 4 and December 7, 1983 orders since total compliance is not necessary for a consideration of a modification of the earlier consent decrees and the district court erred in ordering a release of inmates from the Alabama system without allowing the defendants to show that conditions of confinement are no longer unconstitutional.

Appeal No. 84-7000: we reverse the district court's contempt order of December 27, 1983 concerning Commissioner Smith.

No. 83-7077

January 18, 1983 Consent Decree

This appeal is from a January 18, 1983 consent decree. In February, 1980, Alabama Governor Fob James, upon his request, was appointed by the district court as receiver of the Alabama prison system to cure the ills catalogued by the court and to bring the system into compliance with the United States Constitution. On October 9, 1980, the district court approved a consent decree signed by counsel for plaintiffs, the Department of Corrections defendants, and Governor James. The consent decree contained a series of requirements of which three are of particular relevance here.

First, the defendants agreed to stop housing state inmates in the county jails and agreed to remove all inmates from county jails by September 1, 1981.

Second, the defendants agreed that all prisoners housed in multiple occupancy areas such as dormitories would be provided with at least 60 square feet of living space within the multiple occupancy areas excluding hallways, showers and toilet areas on or before June 1, 1982.

Third, the defendants agreed that "All other minimum standards established by the Pugh and James cases will be complied with as soon as is practical in all facilities of the Alabama prison system."

On January 3, 1983, the court commenced a hearing on the plaintiffs' motion

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to hold the defendants and the receiver in contempt of the October 9, 1980 consent decree, and on a cross-motion of the defendants to modify the decree. After presentation of evidence by the defendants and the receiver, counsel for plaintiffs, defendants, and the receiver informed the court that settlement had been reached between the parties. Only the Attorney General did not agree to the settlement. After a hearing on January 13, 1983, the district court entered the consent decree here appealed on January 18, 1983.

That decree is here challenged on essentially three grounds: first, the state officers who consented were in their last day of administration and had no authority to bind the incoming administration, second, the decree should not have been approved over the objection of the Attorney General and the incoming administration; third, the consent decree should not be effective because it was agreed to by the parties because of their perception of the district court's erroneous view that a prior consent decree, entered on October 9, 1980, could not be modified absent total compliance with that decree; and fourth, the consent decree created an implementation committee which impermissibly intrudes upon the functions properly belonging to the daily operation of the prison system.

An initial question is the standing of the Attorney General and the present Commissioner of Corrections to appeal the consent decree. The two stand in different positions. Attorney General Graddick was a party defendant both at the time of the consent decree and now. He was Attorney General and succeeded himself with the new administration. He objected to the consent decree. The Commissioner of Corrections, a party, at the time of the consent decree was Joseph Hopper. On January 24, 1983, six days after the entry of the decree, Appellant Freddie V. Smith was appointed Commissioner of Corrections by Governor George Wallace, who succeeded Fob James. Smith became a defendant in his official capacity pursuant to automatic substitution under Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(d). Fob James resigned as receiver of the prison system prior to his departure from office, a few days after entry of the consent decree. Governor Wallace has not sought to become the receiver, has not intervened in the lawsuit, and there is currently no court-appointed receiver.

Commissioner Smith has standing to appeal on the ground that Commissioner Hopper did not have authority to enter into a consent decree binding on the incoming administration. We hold, however, that Hopper did have that authority and that the consent decree is binding on the incoming administration. Therefore Smith, as a successor to Hopper, has no more standing to attack the consent decree than Hopper would have had if he had continued as Commissioner, since he stands as a representative in the same place that Hopper stood in connection with the lawsuit. See Cornelius v. Hogan, 663 F.2d 330, 332-35 (1st Cir.1981) (holding consent decree to apply to social services formerly provided by DPW, but now the responsibility of DSS and the fact DSS was not originally a party to the proceedings did not preclude its being bound by the decree).

As to Attorney General Graddick, we hold that as a party defendant who did not agree to the consent decree, he has standing to appeal the decree and assert the decree should not have been approved over his objection but, of course, to have any chance of prevailing, he would need to show that the decree adversely affects his interest as Attorney General of Alabama. He could not assert the interests of other parties to the litigation.

Defendants first argue that Receiver/Governor James and Commissioner Hopper did not have the authority to bind the incoming administration to the terms of the consent agreement. Governor James and Commissioner Hopper were parties to this lawsuit when the agreement was signed and were the current officials of the state. Since they were the current officials and the parties, they had the authority to sign the consent decree, and to bind the incoming officials. The successor state officials, upon taking office, became parties to this

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suit and to the consent decree through automatic substitution and stand in the shoes of their predecessors. Barnett v. Rodgers, 410 F.2d 995 (D.C.1969); see Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(d)(1); McKnight v. Craig Adm'r, 10 U.S. (6 Cranch) 183, 187, 3 L.Ed. 193 (1810); Ranson v. Brennan, 437 F.2d 513...

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